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Jamie Johnson
20 September 2013

Passive Men

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to the NC3 Men's Retreat on September 20, 2013.

Some of the saddest verses in the Bible to me are Genesis 3:1-7 (emphasis mine):

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

The verse is sad to me since it is when mankind fell. It is when sin entered the world. However, there is another reason it is sad. Where was Adam when Eve took the fruit? He was with Eve when she took fruit, but he failed to act or protect or defend or lead. Adam was passive.

Passivity: What is it?

In assertive communication circles, passive means you yield to another person's rights while allowing your own to be violated (which in turn causes poor communication and indirectly violates the other's rights). Passive is being a doormat. It is not taking initiative. It is failing to act with intention. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, passive is defined as "acted upon by an external agency ... receptive to outside impressions or influences ... lacking in energy or will : lethargic ... tending not to take an active or dominant part ... induced by an outside agency ... not active or operating : inert ... latent ... receiving or enduring without resistance : submissive ... existing or occurring without being active, open, or direct." In thinking Biblically, passivity results in being controlled by the flesh or world or devil and not resisting the evil one.

Passivity has plagued our culture. We have men who will not act, some being raised to believe that they are entitled certain things as opposed to working for them. - picture of Uncle Sam saying, 'I Want' with the subtitle 'Entitlement Nation'
We have men who will not fill the gap. We are plagued by fatherlessness often because men are passive. Consider these statistics regarding fatherlessness in our culture:

Source: The Family Project - picture of missing fathers being the missing urban infrastructure

Further, the media depicts men as inept and foolish. Masculine is often deemed politically incorrect and the model for man is frequently an emasculated one. Passivity undermines many things. I will share regarding these areas: leadership and marriage as well as integrity and purity.


In the latter part of Genesis 3:16 (NASB), the Scripture shares what God says to the woman: "Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." Does this mean that the woman will want and long for her husband. No, at least not in the way you think it might. The Hebrew word for desire used in Genesis 3:16 is teshuqah (tɚ•šu•qatêk, phonetic: "tesh-oo-kaw", Hebrew: תְּשׁוּקַת), the same word used in Genesis 4:7 (NASB) where the LORD tells Cain, "And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Sources: Reclaiming Intimacy: Overcoming the Consequences of Premarital Relationships by Heather Jamison and Bible Hub by Biblos). This implies that teshuqah means a longing to master. Teshuqah means the woman will long to rule over her husband, which will cause conflict. One does not have to look to the feminist movement to draw this conclusion. One does not have to look far from home, necessarily. However, if both you and your wife are walking in Christ and growing in Him, hopefully, you are not living in bondage to the Fall.

I have a poster in my office that says, "I'm not indecisive, am I?" It is supposed to be funny, but it serves as a reminder of my past struggles with indecisiveness, a form of passivity. It is a reminder that I need to act and to decide, not in an impulsive manner, but prayerfully. And while I make decisions at work, I need to remember to make decisions at home. I need to lead.

In regards to leadership, let me talk about dog poop. Yes, dog poop. In his book The Dog Poop Initiative, Kirk Weisler shares a story involving dog poop. Picture this scene. There are kids at a soccer game and dog poop is in the middle of the field. People are pointing it out and talking about it and warning others to watch out for it. Finally, one of the fathers in the stands goes and, modeling for his son on the field, picks up the dog poop and throws it away. He does not complain or talk about it or panic about it. He does something about it. He throws off passivity and acts. He leads.

One time, my wife pointed to the new curtains covering our living room windows. She asked what I thought of them. My response was, "Do they cover the windows?" It seems small, but I should have given a better response. I should have led. She is looking for my input, for my leadership. Married men, your wives are looking to you. Are you leading? Men, are you leading in your sphere of influence? Are you making an impact? Are you providing input? Are you providing Godly influence? Regarding curtains, am I happy if just anything covers the windows or am I going to give her input with intention? After all, not deciding is deciding; it is deciding to not lead; it is deciding to be passive.

A trend now is that women are taking the lead with college degrees, church, school, work, and so on. It's fine for women to achieve, but where are the men? Women still find themselves picking up after men. That is to say, women are filling in the gaps where men fail to lead. And the mess is a trail laid in the wake of passive men. Passive seems safe, but it is destructive. A husband who is passive is living out of the Fall, not the Spirit and he causes his wife to live out of the fall as well. This causes conflict within the marriage. It has been said that if America falls, it will be from within. That is worth thinking about in regards to marriage. There are plenty of external threats to marriage, but there are those within as well such as passivity.

Whether the question from your wife is about curtains, what detergent to buy or something more significant like a family or spiritual matter, do not be passive. If you don't know, let her know that you will look into it. Then, actually look into it, research it, and give her an answer. If there is a decision to be made, prayerfully consider it and then decide. I struggle at times with passivity, but when it came to speaking tonight, I had to pray on whether or not I would do it and then prepare and then do it. I could not be passive about it.

When there are external threats to marriage - its definition, even - why volunteer to have your marriage attacked? Passivity does just that. It leaves the door open for the enemy to gain footing in your marriage. Ephesians 4:27 says to not give the devil a foothold. Passivity allows your wife to reach for the fruit she shouldn't eat. Are you going to just sit there and watch? Fight for your marriage. Pursue your wife. Take time for her. Act in a manner to let her know how important she is to you. Study her. I am talking to myself here. Do this all in the Light of Christ.

Speaking of fighting for your marriage, consider Staff Sergeant Walt Townsend who retired from the Marine Corps. After being in Iraq in 2007, he "allowed his life to be dominated by a destructive mix of survivor's guilt, anxiety, anger, and alcohol. His wife Rosie and their two young daughters 'walked on eggshells'...fearing another of his outbursts" (Samaritan's Purse, PrayerPoint, Summer 2013, p. 20). Townsend was haunted: "Narrowly surviving attacks by insurgents, his injuries included trauma to the brain (two severe concussions), shrapnel wounds all over his body, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Walt also struggled to grieve the loss of Marine friends who were killed in action as they served alongside him. Throughout this period of sleepless nights and restless days, he tried to mask the pain with alcohol" (p. 20).

Wouldn't you want to give up? Walt and Rosie did not. They went on a retreat to Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots where God worked in their marriage. They saw their marriage worth fighting for. Listen to this: "Since their retreat in Alaska, Walt has quit drinking and dedicated himself to becoming his family's spiritual leader. He's also opening up to Rosie about what's going on inside him" (p. 20). Married men, are you your family's spiritual leader? Do you open up to your wife about what is going on inside of you? You have to lay passivity at the foot of the cross and do what God wants you to do for your marriage. Men, are you willing to fight for what's right, come what may? Or are you going (or not going) on the basis of self only to be snuffed out?

Further is said of the Townsends: "Recommitted to Christ, the couple is growing to daily trust the Lord for His best for their lives. They are putting into practice what the Bible says, 'Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7, NASB). 'We're making Christ the center of our relationship. When we don't look to God, that's when we're falling apart'" (p. 21). They are recommitted, growing, trusting, putting into practice, casting anxiety, making Christ the center, looking to God. These actions are not passive.

Sometimes men stay with their wives, but are unfaithful to their responsibilities within the marriage. John Piper writes "sinful men use their unique powers to exploit women for their evil purposes" (Manhood and Womanhood Before Sin). Piper later asks these questions: "How were man and woman supposed to relate to each other before sin ruined things? What did manhood and womanhood look like before sin distorted them into what we see today?" Let's consider men. In Genesis 1:27, God makes man first. Piper says that this indicates that even before the Fall, leadership is a responsibility of the man.

What does this leadership involve? Piper says that Adam being there first before the woman gave him the responsibility "to receive and teach and be accountable for the moral pattern of life in the garden of Eden." And he refers to Genesis 2:16 (NASB), which says the following:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

And Adam was given that command before Eve was created. And Piper points out how we see the responsibility of accountability happen after the Fall. Whom does God call after the Fall in Genesis 3:9? The man. Adam was held accountable first as he was the leader (and he failed to lead due to his passivity). Piper shares an observation in Satan attacking Eve first and asks the following:

Why did he draw her into discussion first and make her the spokesman for the couple? Why did he lure her into being the moral guardian of the garden? Was it because she was easier prey? Is woman more gullible than man? Or could the answer be: Satan drew the woman in first, and made her the spokesman and the moral guardian, because that is exactly what should not have been done?

In other words Satan spurns the order that God has established and simply ignores the man and takes up his subtle battle with the woman. And in doing that, he makes man into exactly what he wants him to be: a silent, withdrawn, weak, fearful, passive wimp. And a masculine wimp is a very dangerous person. One moment he's passive and follows his woman; and the next moment he's angry and blames her for all of his problems.

John Piper summarizes what we should do:

Well, men, we should humble ourselves before God for our failures. All of us. This is not a call to exalt yourself over any woman. This is not a call to domineer, or belittle, or to put woman in her place. She is, after all, a fellow heir of God and destined for a glory that will blind us some day. This is a call to stoop down and to take the responsibility to be a leader - a servant leader in the various ways that are appropriate to every different relationship to women.

Listen to what the Bible says on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33 (NASB):

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

(A lot of guys stop there and miss the following main points of this verse directly applicable to them.)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Fifteen years ago, I wrote the following in a piece called Marriage Theology:

[W]hy is submission a problem? If a man is striving to be Christ-like and a couple strives to have a Christ-centered marriage, then submission should not be a problem to the degree people make it these days. Did Christ beat, abuse, or slave drive His Church? NO! Did Christ sit around and do nothing for her and make her do all the work? NO! On the contrary, while the Church lacked faith, Christ loved her and died for her showing the greatest love of all (Even though we were yet sinners, Christ still died for us. See Romans 5:8. And there is no greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends. See John 15:13). Wouldn't a woman want to submit to a husband who so humbled himself and loved her as Christ has done the Church? Wouldn't a man want to love his wife as his own body -- a woman who is faithful to Christ, to him, and to the calls of marriage, including submission? Strive for such things.

Even if your wife is not doing as she should, you do the right thing, come what may. Don't pretend to do the right thing as a way to manipulate your wife. Fight against passivity that attacks marriage. Fight against passivity that attacks your response to the call of leadership.

Integrity and Purity

Passivity also attacks and undermines integrity. What is Integrity? It is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. It involves stewardship - what you do with what you have. It takes intention to maintain integrity - to be a man of integrity.

Matthew 25:14-30 (NASB) is the Parable of the Talents, which has something to say about integrity:

"For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

"Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'

"But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'

"For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "

I want to focus on the slave with the one talent. What did he do with the one talent? He buried it. Why? You can see in his response. He said he was "afraid" of the master. So, he did not invest the talent. He was a poor steward. Without the master watching over him, he lacked integrity. He was passive. Fear begets passivity. What are you doing with what God has given to you? What are you doing with your time, your talents and treasure...including when you are alone? Are you investing it in things of significance? Are you investing in things that matter such as your marriage and leadership or are you going to be "afraid" and hide (i.e., be passive)?

Now, there is a balance between control and passivity. God is sovereign, but we are not to sit on our blessed assurance and do nothing. Similarly, we are not to seize control without going to God and doing things our own way. Jeremiah 10:23 (NASB) says, "I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps." It's not up to man. It's up to God. Yet, you must do as God commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. The way of man is death. Consider Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (NASB), which say the same thing: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Why do you think that same verse is spoken within 3 chapters of Proverbs? Do you think it is important? The fearful slave who failed to invest his one talent did things according to what he thought best, not what the master thought best. Since the Fall, since Adam was passive and watched Eve take the fruit, man has been trying to implement the old lie of the serpent: "...the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..." (Genesis 3:4, NASB). Are you doing things God's way or your way? What do you do when the Master is not around? Well, the thing is, He is around ... always. This is the issue of integrity. When we think He is not around, we have taken our eyes off of Him and lose integrity. If we keep in mind that He is around and by His Spirit, act accordingly, we are men of integrity.

Due to the lack of integrity at the hands of passive men, purity in our culture is at stake. The purity of men is at stake. Remember, one definition of passivity is "receiving ... without resistance" (Merriam-Webster). We sit in our entertainment-addicted society and the billboards, Internet ads, magazines and movies splash sexualized objects in front of us. One does not have to try to find it. It literally is in your face. You have to resist. James 4:7 (NASB) says, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." First, one must submit to God. Next, he must resist the evil one. Not resisting has allowed a wound to open and now the cancer of impurity spreads. Like the slave with one talent who was afraid of the master and as a result, hid and failed, men hide, thinking that they are accountable to no one. It is in these hiding places where the failure of integrity becomes impurity, where idolatry manifests itself in the form of pornography. Consider these statistics from Covenant Eyes:

Thus, passivity compromises integrity, which feeds impurity. Impurity fuels porn, which fuels the illegal drug industry. If this was not bad enough, porn also fuels the human trafficking industry. Consider these trafficking statistics from Two and a Half Miles, a movement to end sex trafficking:

So, what some think is a private act is not. It is a selfish act, performed alone, but it is part of the global impact (and since the Master is there, He knows).

Regarding purity, what are we as men to do? First, do not be passive. You must pray to God to work in your heart by His Holy Spirit to be pure. If you take notice of something you shouldn't, cut it off (refer to Matthew 5:28-29). Consider the mistake of David in 2 Samuel 11:2-4 (NASB):

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite." Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. ...

I wonder if David was seeking out a beautiful woman when he went up to the roof. We don't know. However, we do know that he noticed the woman. Did he cover his eyes and remove himself from the situation? No. He was passive about his integrity and his purity. He actually sent someone to find out more. Next, he sent messengers to get her. Then, he slept with her. He compromised (i.e., was passive with) his integrity and purity multiple times. Each of those times was an opportunity to say, "No" and turn the Lord. Men do not take that second look. If the rooftop is a place of struggle for you, do not go there. Do not look in certain places. Say, "No." If you seek out sin, it will find you! God wants to fill you (see Ephesians 1:17-19). The enemy wants to consume you (see 1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes focused and run the race in spite of this sexualized culture. Consider Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB):

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Men, you need to get a cloud of witnesses such as fellowship in the assembly, perhaps a band of brothers or brother who can keep you accountable.

Men, you must lay aside the entanglements - the tempting places, the racy websites, the sexualized video games, the inappropriate movies, the crude shows and any people or habits or whatever causes you to stumble.

And above all, fix your eyes on Jesus. The phrase "fixing your eyes on" in the Greek is aphorōntes eis (ἀφορῶντες εἰς), which means "looking away to" (Source: Bible Hub by Biblos). This means that we are looking away from sin that entangles and looking to Jesus. And further, it is not a one time "look." Rather, it is a "looking" as in "fixing our eyes." This is something that has to be done continuously, not passively. May the Holy Spirit help us!

Men, take every thought captive. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (NASB).

Men, make a covenant with your eyes. Job 31:1 says that Job made a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully upon a maiden. Guys, we have to make such a covenant. This means we cannot be passive.

The Hall family is raising their boys to be moral men. It is a family that is not passive. Their blog post FYI (if you're a teenage girl) is a letter to teenage girls from Mrs. Hall, the mother of two teenage sons. The mother writes about the pictures posted online by these girls. She writes how her daughter notices the cute bedrooms, but that her sons notice other things: their skimpy pajamas, when they are without bras, their "sultry" poses and so on. The mother writes that the whole family looks at these pictures because "[i]f you are friends with a Hall boy on [social media], then you are friends with the whole Hall family." The mother compliments the good posts by such girls and challenges them to purity and then mentions that they have to block the girl for the questionable picture she posted. There are no second chances in the Hall family for girls who post such pictures because "we are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don't linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls." The mother concludes her letter encouraging and challenging the girls in purity and character.

It sounds like the "we are hoping to raise" indicates that Mr. Hall - the father - is playing a key role in this as well. What role are you playing? In his article, The Hookup Culture Also Hurts Our Boys, Jim Daly writes the following:

How have we allowed our young men to become so misguided in their thinking? A lot of the blame falls to us men. After all, how can a boy learn to be a man without someone to teach him? We have to do the hard, intentional work of fatherhood and mentoring.

And this is not just father-to-son, but man-to-younger-man. Men, are you modeling a moral compass with God's Word as your True North? Men, are you raising your sons (or if you don't have sons, speaking into the lives of boys) to be men of integrity and purity? Are you encouraging other men (including your sons) to be such men, to be men who overcome passivity and lead with integrity?


A few years ago, Dockers had an ad called "Man-ifesto" which said the following:

Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that's what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It's time to get your hands dirty. It's time to answer the call of manhood. It's time to WEAR THE PANTS.

Ok. So, there is a little humor from a khaki ad, but guys, it really is time to wear the pants. It's time to stop being passive. It's time to be intentional. It's time to decide in the small things. It's time to give input on the curtains or dish detergent. It's time to decide in the big things. It's time to restrain from taking that second look. It's time to do right even when alone. It's time to stop being boys and start being men. What's at stake? Leadership. Marriages. Families. Integrity. Purity. And your witness as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Men: Don't let life pass you by in passivity; rather, be in life with intention... in your marriages, in your families, in your communities and in faith.

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